Description: the inspiration for this story came from 2 sources. one was a short story by david sedaris intitled 12 moments in the life of an artist, and conversation between me and 2 friends. this story is meant to explore the concepts of morality, art culture, and mindless justification.
what art means to me -------------------------------------------
Alex took off her shoes and relaxed. I sat utterly exhausted clenching a lukewarm cup of coffee and a Camel #9 cigarette. I had bummed this oh-so effeminate cigarette from my younger sister who had been hypnotized by the bright pink camel and textured pink lettering. I can just imagine her informing the cashier that she wished to purchase “The pretty ones.”
“I think my feet are getting infected,” Alex commented. The five circular symmetrical brands in decreasing size mirrored on both feet had started to turn white around edges and scab in unusual ways.
“That sucks,” I said apathetically. I wanted to care about Alex’s slowly decaying feet but I couldn’t muster the energy. Or maybe I'm just an asshole. I began to contemplate this quandary but soon realized that this was consuming more energy than would have a little genuine concern. I had my answer.
Just as I set my third cup of coffee on to the end table strategically dragged to my side, a knock came at the door. Then again, increasing in intensity and speed. I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of another unexpected visitor at the ungodly time of 12:30 p.m., but was intrigued by the ferocity of the rapping.
I pleaded with Alex to walk the seven feet and answer the door. She dragged her self over to the entryway.
“Damn, dog, I gotta check my ticket,” Daniel exclaimed as he burst into the room.
“Fuck,” I thought to myself. I did not know Daniel very well but I hated him. At 5’ 7”, husky and Irish, he resembled a large leprechaun, with the urban flavor assigned strictly to wealthy white kids between the ages of 14 and 23.
“Hi Dan,” Alex said unenthusiastically.
“Wus up girl?”
Alex hated being called girl, woman, or anything else that summed her up by her vagina. It wasn’t that Alex was a feminist. She had no problem with words such as “bitch” and she certainly shaved her armpits, it’s just that Alex hated vaginas. She hated looking at her own and even talking about them, especially the intricacies of the dreaded menstrual cycle. She was the only female I had encountered who had a stronger distaste for “period talk” than most males including myself.
“What’s this about a ticket, Dan?” I questioned, not amused. Here was a goddamn leprechaun talking about god knows what and brandishing something in his pocket. I almost hoped it was a gun and he had come to kill us in some strange pre-St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun ritual. Oh god, how amazing that would be.
“Come on, dog, where’s your remote,” he said expectantly while rifling around my collage of discarded pizza boxes and magazines strewn about my floor. This guy was going to fuck up my organizational system, I thought. To be fair the mess was not in any particular order whatsoever. He paused on a dirty magazine entitled “Beasts and the Bitches that Love them.”
“Eeww, James… bestiality?!” he shouted.
Instead of explaining that my art history professor had given it to me as a joke after I had requested some modern day proof of “a defined Marquis de Sade style of portraits” I simply shrugged, allowing droplets of imagery involving me and sheep to appear in his mind. I really didn’t care what this fuck-tard believed my fetishes to be.
“So where did you come from?” I asked.
“I was down at Anthony’s crib and his TV is broke. And I needed to check my lotto.”
Alex let out a long sigh. The only thing she hated more than vaginas was the lottery.
Anthony was my downstairs neighbor. He had probably just sent Daniel up here to annoy me. Dan found the remote, turned on my television and changed it to the morning news.
“This bitch gave me dis ticket for free, I figure she be a prophet or something.”
Not wanting to explain the odds that a prophet would visit a half retarded leprechaun and give him his pot-of-gold in lottery ticket form, I just let out a somber, ”Oh.” What an asshole.
“Ticket numba 306 baby,” he bragged.
“That’s not enough numbers,” Alex said condescendingly. I glanced at the ticket. It was a fucking receipt for a lottery ticket. I couldn’t believe it.
“What you takin bout?”
“Well, Gary Colman, that’s a receipt for a tottery ticket,” I patronized.
“For real?” he questioned suspiciously examining the ticket.
“Yeah!” Alex said holding back her laughter.
He dashed from my apartment only pausing to steal my bestiality pornography. He covertly stashed it in an old New York Times magazine.
“I been meaning to find out what that whole Enron thing was about,” he said, shutting the door behind him.
“What a fucking asshole!” Alex said relieved to be rid of the Irish plague that was Daniel. “Do you have any Bactine?”
I pointed a lazy finger in the direction of the bathroom and grabbed for another bitch cigarette and lit it. I watched the smoke curl from the red-hot tip and listened to the clock tick as the massive amount of caffeine I had ingested began to take effect. As the smoke forked into two liquid spirals I saw my destiny. Maybe it was Daniel, maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was the pile of crystal meth still clogging my system from the past week, but I had an epiphany: I was going to catch me a goddamn leprechaun!
When Alex returned I told her of my ingenious idea and we set to work constructing a masterpiece. A week from St. Patrick’s Day it would not be hard to find a wanna-be leprechaun. What else is a midget with red hair supposed to do on March 17th?
We went to work creating a crack team. First we chose our friend Euphoria, a video installation artist from New Orleans who became stranded in Indianapolis after Hurricane Katrina. She was perfect: ruthless, interesting, and possessing the artistic genius adequate enough to understand our vision. Upon receiving her invitation she exclaimed excitedly, “Sounds great, so are we going to kill him or what?” I assured her that we weren’t planning on it but we were giving ourselves freedom to do whatever seemed necessary to complete this perfect artwork.
Next we called our friend Chris, brilliant photographer from southern Indiana, who was also extremely gay. Chris modeled to make money supporting both his photography classes and an increasingly intense cocaine addiction. We chose him because aside from being smart and malicious he knew a ream of performance artists through his work in underground magazines. We had decided that a performance artist was the most important ingredient in any magical creature abduction.
After these two we had a little trouble finding ready volunteers. Many ignorant “friends” spouted a bunch of P.C. unenlightened bullshit about civil rights and “little people are people too.” First of all that’s bullshit they are not human beings and second of all who cares. I mean if they were a wild or domestic animal I wouldn’t be mean to them. The truth is midgets, cripples, and ugly people all reside in that grey zone which is designated for soilent green manufacturing and artistic kidnapping.
The four of us met at my house the next day to iron out the edges in the plan.
“We need a tough guy,” Chris said firmly.
“Ya, there might be people around so we’ll need to be able to overpower him quickly,” Alex commented.
“I mean he’s a midget how hard could it be?” I questioned.
“Well, he might know karate!” Chris exclaimed.
“Well, do you know anyone, we exhausted our resources yesterday.”
“I met this performance artist last week, he’s kind of a hipster guy, but he might be interested,” Chris said.
He called his newly found acquaintance and filled him in on what we were doing. Not only was this young man, whom I would later come to know as Jed, interested, but he had actually met a professional leprechaun at an Irish pub down the street from his house last week and acquired his business card. It was all coming together perfectly.
The only problem with our plan was that we had no idea what to do with our little friend once we had him. We discussed possibilities ranging from tickling him while demanding gold to anal electrocution (which we almost settled on but Euphoria pointed out that if he died it would appear to be a political statement concerning the harsh treatment of veal). In the end we decided to leave it all up to the creative impulses of the moment. “You can’t over think these things,” Jed assured us.
Over the next week we gathered materials and waited to execute our bizarre St. Patrick’s Day art piece. We were to put Rembrandt to shame, we would finally demolish the “originality” of Salvador Dali and create something more controversial and thought provoking than Kurt Vonnegut or Ali G. could have ever dreamed. What thoughts we were provoking we weren’t sure but we knew we were provoking them. Who would have thought that the single most original art piece in history would come from Indiana?
It was the day of ascension. At 9:30 that night, we gathered around Jed’s van outside my apartment in excitement. According to our target’s answering service he would be at Plumps, a popular frat bar, at ten. We stuffed our supplies into a duffle bag: duct tape, a small black bag complete with breathing holes designed to be placed over his head, and an assortment of random other materials we had decided to try and find uses for. Our grocery list of improvisational torture devices included a charcoal eraser, clock hands, and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar in sock-puppet form.
We had decided to wear Mexican wrestling masks and black clothing as disguises to add even more surrealism to the experience for our victim and any witnesses who may happen to be around. My heart filled with joy picturing a drunken sorority girl grabbing her cell phone in desperation upon seeing us snatch the little bugger, not to call the police but to inform her sorority sister that she “just saw the tightest shit ever!”
Our enthusiasm mounted as we jumped into the van and sped off.
“Gonna catch a leprechaun!” Chris shouted.
“Gonna steal his gold!” Alex cried.
We were at peace. We were ready for battle. Behind our war paint of our Mexican wrestling masks we prayed to the art gods. Basquiat guide us, Lord of the Yum-Yum lead us to victory. We pulled out of the complex’s parking lot and we were off. Ducking and weaving down the street we sang along with Irish drinking songs on the community radio station. This was what art is meant to be. We felt sorry for wealthy soccer moms cramming themselves into still-life exhibits, thinking there was anything edgy or remarkable about a watercolor portrait of a fruit basket. We weren’t mean, we were just inspired.
We arrived at the bar at 9:58; just in time to catch our little friend enter the bar. He waddled up the steps and had to ask someone to help him open the door. He was a perfect muse for artistic genius. His little legs had to extend up to his chest before coming down on the step above him like an upward traveling slinky. We decided to wait for him to leave.
“He’s kind of cute in a three-legged dog sort of way,” Alex said.
We all laughed. Jed broke out a handle of whiskey and we began to drink and watch our friend. I truly thought of him a friend. He was about to be involved in the greatest artistic experiment Indiana had ever seen and he didn’t even know it. I just hoped he’d get it.
As we watched him we saw the truth. We saw frat guy after frat guy pour beer on him, pick him up, and try to force their girl friends to kiss him. It was…for lack of a better word, wonderful. Here were these uncreative assholes having a laugh by imitating “The Elephant Man.” And here we were making a real contribution to the world. After an hour of this the little man made his way back out of the bar.
“Hey, sir,” Alex called. “Do you have a light?”
At being referred to in respectful manner by a pretty girl he ran over. Waddling at top speed his legs looked like breadsticks shaking in a paint mixer. Jed circled around the car to block backward retreat. We held our breath. He reached his lighter high in to the air upon reaching the car. Alex stepped out and slammed the bag over his head. He screamed and stomped on her bare feet, hitting her infected brands directly with the corner of his heeled shoes. She had been struck defenseless. Without removing the bag from his head he ran. Screaming and hollering he ran straight into a tree not ten feet from us.
We began to cackle in complete bliss. Euphoria recorded his helpless leprechaun voice on a cell phone. She kept recording as he, blinded by the bag, covered in beer, and head throbbing, cried for mercy. This was to be her memento and proof of our brilliance.
Twitching and writhing under the tree he began to cry. Every ounce of dignity and self respect was leaking from him through his tear ducks. Jed ran over to the hurt creature and without thinking he pulled out his penis and began to urinate. A stream of neon yellow poured down on the post human ball. The yellow contrasted perfectly with the electric green of the leprechaun’s attire, and Chris took a picture.
We sped off. Drunk on whiskey we sang and drove into the night.
Over the next few months we all used the kidnapping in our respective fields. Euphoria used the desperate moans she had recorded as the sound track to her next installation. Chris used his photograph in an exhibit meant to promote tolerance at the Indianapolis Art Museum. His photograph won a medal for its realistic portrayal of human pain and loss of dignity. The only complaint was that the message was a little too overt.
As for Alex she began creating a series of still life paintings around the theme of St. Patrick’s Day Mischief. Jed had his urine stained pants and I had a conceptual plethora of honest in-depth descriptions.
As the years pass I sometimes think of our little friend. Once while waiting tables at Dahlias, a downtown family restraint, I had a family whose child was a midget. I heard the little girl talk of bullying and cruelty from her peers as well as adults, and I saw myself in her stories of turmoil. Of course my malevolence had really accomplished something, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had done something wrong.
As the family was leaving I pulled the mother aside.
“It must be really tough,” I said hoping she would say something encouraging: It’s not so bad, or all we need is love — something to bandage the pit in my stomach.
“Yeah, its really sad. Most little people commit suicide before reaching adulthood. Our friend was accosted by a group of college students one St. Patrick’s Day and was so humiliated he hung himself.”
I clocked out that day feeling strange. It wasn’t as if I felt guilty or even regretted our experiment, just strange. Bittersweet tears fell upon my floor once reaching my apartment. While the effect had been negative we had truly changed someone’s life with our art. And isn’t that what art is really all about? Affecting someone so profoundly that they leave feeling hopeful, depressed, angry, motivated? I don’t know about you but that’s exactly what art means to me.